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Does your voice chafe? A book launch, a crowd of people, and two dentist appointments

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I went to the book launch to see what Helen Fogwill Porter had to do with the the world I lived in. It was one of those things. I’d clicked ‘going’ on a facebook invite without actually knowing if I’d be able to attend. Like a lot of people, I have a lot on the go and I never know how my day will shape up until it arrives. But when my husband stepped up to take our daughters to their dentist appointments, that Thursday afternoon became unexpectedly clear. So I went.  I googled her name on my phone in the cab on the way there. She was born on the Southside  of St. John’s (and wrote a memoir about it). She’s been writing since the 1960s, novels, stories, and poetry. She’s a feminist. She was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2016. The year before that,…

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Taxes and fairness, Part 1: Danny’s other legacy

in Featured/Indy Essay/Journalism by

We hear a lot about Muskrat Falls as Danny Williams’ legacy, but it is hardly the only problem he left us to sort out. He rejigged provincial income tax rates between 2007 and 2010 so as to primarily benefit our wealthiest citizens. The result is that people earning in excess of $100,000 a year have since received – in the form of reduced taxes – more money than the province normally raises through income tax in an entire year. Income distribution changing Income figures for 2015, recently released by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), reveal our province to be profoundly divided. Our income distribution now exhibits a strangely inverted symmetry: more than half the people earn only a fifth of the income, while a fifth of the people earn more than half. This pattern is new and results from changes in provincial government policy that favour high-income earners. This policy…

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The buggy, from a car window

in Featured/Indy Essay by

There is a man pushing a shopping cart along Elizabeth Avenue. The cart frame is studded with salt and rust. It’s thronging with beer bottles, wine bottles and cans, most of them tied into transparent plastic recycling bags. “Have you talked to him?” my husband asks. The man is a binner: he works scavenging through garbage bins to find reusable and recyclable items that can be exchanged for cash. We’re in a car. In the backseat our four-year-old is covering her nose against the new-car smell. She’s near rebellion. My bag is in my lap and I’m searching for a stale chocolate chip cookie, a broken granola bar, anything that will distract her. The man and the buggy are on the road to the right, just ahead. Is he the one they call “The Governor,” I wonder? I can’t see his face, yet. He leans over the handle as he…

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What’s a budget for, anyway?

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Finance Minister Tom Osborne used the words “methodical, fair and responsible” to describe the recent budget, but representatives of civil society and community organizations said that Budget 2018 failed to provide a vision for a sustainable future for Newfoundland and Labrador. Debbie Forward, head of the Nurses’ Union, referred to it as “a flat budget.” She said while there’s not a lot to be upset about, there’s not much to be excited about either. Mary Shortall, President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour said she was looking for a jobs strategy from the budget, but couldn’t find one. “There’s nothing in this that indicates there’s any plan ahead for that. I didn’t see a vision in this budget for what’s going to happen for our population going forward,” she said. The March 27 budget “doesn’t inspire confidence with respect to what we have been able to observe today,”…

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The stories maps tell: A librarian and his travels through space and time

in Featured/Indy Essay by

I didn’t always think of maps as a way to tell stories. To me, maps were tools that documented spatial relationships. And yet it’s been a while since I thought of maps that way. Over the next few months in this column, I want to take you on a journey through the kinds of stories that maps can tell. Over the years I have been asked “what do you do as a map librarian”? When I take a few minutes to explain the work I do, I often see that I haven’t found the right words. My listener’s eyes might glaze over or they might respond with a polite “oh, interesting.” After one of my spiels, my aunt once said: “I’ll just keep telling people you work in a library.” What I need when I tell people what I do is a map. I need a map I can roll…

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In the public interest?

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Free press advocates argue there is no public interest in pursuing the civil and criminal charges against Canadian journalist Justin Brake. “Quite the contrary, there are clear harms to public interest in pursuing this case against Mr. Brake,” said Duncan Pike, co-director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. Protecting private property rights Two questions drive the controversy over the charges that national and international advocates say are ‘deeply troubling’ and ‘contributing to the decline’ of Canada’s ranking in the press freedom index. First, is it in the public interest for the crown attorney’s office to pursue criminal charges against a journalist covering an event of national importance? Free press organizations say that the journalist’s role in providing information is in the public interest, while Newfoundland and Labrador crown prosecutor for the case Jennifer Standen says that the protection of private property rights and the enforcement of court orders are in…

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As ArtsNL funding crisis deepens, province’s arts organizations fear for their future

in Arts & Culture/Featured/Journalism by

Several of the province’s arts organizations are in a bind after ArtsNL—the body which adjudicates grants and disburses provincial arts funding—has cut their funding over what the arts organizations say are very minor errors in online reporting forms. Last week the Folk Arts Council—which puts off the annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival, one of the province’s premiere music and culture festivals—learned that the second and third years of a pre-approved three-year funding grant had been cancelled due to reporting errors. They have since announced they’re suing ArtsNL over the decision, since funding was supposed to be guaranteed for three years and they say minimal effort was made to alert them to the reporting discrepancies. Wreckhouse Jazz and Blues Festival and Gros Morne Summer Music have also had their funding cancelled, and on Tuesday the provincial arts and culture magazine Riddle Fence made a public statement announcing their funding was…

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What could happen if the province increased funding to libraries?

in About Books/Featured/Journalism by

An event featuring three of the city’s top poets last week doubled as an occasion for library supporters to raise their voices in demanding an improved public library system for the capital city—and the province. The second event in The Once and Future Library series—organized by the St. John’s Public Library Board—took place on March 14 in the AC Hunter Public Library, and proved to be as lively as it was literary. All three poets, and the writers and librarians who introduced them, read from their works but also reflected on the value of libraries to themselves personally, as well as the role libraries play in the broader community. George Murray is a well-established poet. Author of eight books of poetry, as well as a published author of fiction and children’s literature, Murray has served as poetry editor for the Literary Review of Canada and contributing editor with Maisonneuve. In…

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‘I don’t consider myself an activist… I feel responsible’: Beatrice Hunter

in Featured/Journalism/Q&A by

Beatrice Hunter is one of about fifty Labradorians who occupied Muskrat Falls in 2016. The Inuk grandmother continues to fight the resulting civil and criminal charges that were laid against her (and other land protectors) in court. In light of the recent provincial court ruling that allowed criminal charges to go ahead against Justin Brake, the former editor of The Independent who entered the Muskrat Falls site to report about the actions of the land protectors, I asked Hunter if she would talk with me. I asked her about the status of the charges she is facing, her thoughts on the charges against Justin Brake, and what the future of Labrador might look like for herself and for her children. Hunter says that “the more the people know about the situation here in Labrador, the better.” She believes that Justin Brake’s coverage of the events changed the way the rest of the…

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‘Wounds don’t need to be closed’

in About Books/Featured by

Mi’kmaq poet and writer Shannon Webb-Campbell was living in Halifax in 2014, the February that Loretta Saunders, a 26-year-old Inuk woman from Labrador, was murdered. “I felt devastated and I wondered how I could help in any way. And so I started thinking maybe I could write a poetry book about this,” Webb-Campbell said. Who Took My Sister? explores the different kinds of trauma Indigenous women live through, with, and alongside. I invited Webb-Campbell to join myself and two other women as we talked about her new book (to be released March 20). So, in the middle of February, at an office in the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre, three women met to talk with Webb-Campbell by phone about trauma, murdered and missing Indigenous women, and love. Métis cultural support worker with the Friendship Centre, Amelia Reimer, musician and community arts organizer Kate Lahey, and myself, a Métis writer and…

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‘What we can learn for the future’: David Vardy on the Muskrat Falls inquiry

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The name David Vardy has been linked with criticism of the Muskrat Falls project since its earliest days, when he had already retired from public service. Vardy, a former Clerk of the Executive Council and Secretary to Cabinet and chairman of the Public Utilities Board, says the questions we really need to answer are about democracy and how we as a society are going to respond to Muskrat Falls. I sat down for an interview with him before he left for the Muskrat Falls symposium in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Q: What makes you happy about what’s going on with the Muskrat Falls issue right now? Anything? So what makes me happy is that we finally have a public inquiry. And this is not the public inquiry that I asked for: what I wanted was a panel of people that were very knowledgeable about construction projects. And what do we end up…

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‘The courage to come forward’: Amelia Reimer talks about the upcoming MMIWG hearings

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The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry will be in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in the first week of March, reported APTN Wednesday afternoon. Amelia Reimer has been sitting on a provincial planning committee for the hearings. We asked her what to expect. Q: Who are the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls In Newfoundland and Labrador? A: It’s all walks of life. There’s some people on the list that we don’t know their names because that was always hidden from the media. Their names were always withheld, so some of those I can’t really speak to. But for the ones whose families have decided to let the names be public it’s–I guess the stereotype with this type of violence across the country is that it’s sex workers, not that that should make any difference whatsoever. But here, it’s mostly domestic violence. The unsolved cases clearly we don’t know…

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The last season of the cofferdam?

in Featured/Journalism by

There are other sunken ships in Canadian waters that are labelled risks—ships besides the Manolis L., the one at the centre of this story. There are hundreds of other ships left at the bottom of Canadian waters, with names like Scout, Genie G., Arrel, M.F. Therese, the Northern Osprey, Dorothy B., and Mink. Sea Alert, Danny Boy, and Atlantic Charger, too. Many of them pose the same kind of environmental risks as the Manolis L. If you asked biologist and Memorial University professor Dr. Ian Jones, he’d say that’s what this article is really about. He’d say that what I should write about here isn’t just the Manolis L., with its fuel tanks deteriorating at the bottom of the Notre Dame Bay, off Fogo Island and Change Islands. He’d tell you that this story is about what biologists say is an ever-increasing risk of oil spills in the Canadian waters,…

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Telling the story of harassment in the RCMP

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On February 1, former RCMP Constable Janet Merlo spoke to a packed gathering hosted by the Department of Gender Studies at Memorial University about her experience of sexual harassment in the force. The harassment she along with thousands of other women in the RCMP experienced became the subject of a class action suit that was settled out of court last year. Her story, which is outlined in detail in her own book No One To Tell: Breaking My Silence on Life in the RCMP, is a powerful one that tackles a misogyny still deeply rooted in many workplaces, and one we thought we should share. Merlo looks out across campus, reminiscing about her days as a student and how much the university landscape has changed. An alumni of Squires House, she fondly recalls some of the antics of residence life. Joining the RCMP was not a career move she’d planned…

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From Newfoundland to the edge of the galaxy: Encountering Ursula K. Le Guin

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Le Guin’s worlds reshaped our own

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From the Editor: The lights are back on

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  “I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.”-Tom Stoppard “Journalism without a moral position is impossible. Every journalist is a moralist. It’s absolutely unavoidable. A journalist is someone who looks at the world and the way it works, someone who takes a close look at things every day and reports what she sees, someone who represents the world, the event, for others. She cannot do her work without judging what she sees.” –Marguerite Duras Just two days before I officially stepped into my role as lead editor of The Independent, the lights went out on our website. Some server somewhere in the United States crashed and they said all we could do was wait. Except, as the wait grew longer and we were no closer to getting back online, I decided to use this as an opportunity to…

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“Budget decisions can lead us to a more hopeful future:” David Thompson

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Like the rest of us, you’ve been hearing about the economic troubles here in Newfoundland and Labrador. The story goes that we have no choice but to cut budgets and jobs and increase fees. But economist David Thompson says we can tell a different kind of story about the economy here in Newfoundland and Labrador. In fact, he believes that if we told different stories about our economy, we would be able to find different solutions than the ones that are commonly offered up. He said that “doom and gloom” stories prevent us from seeing the real, viable solutions in front of us. We don’t have to run ourselves off a “fiscal cliff.”: we can turn ourselves around at any point. Thompson is an economist and a founder of PolicyLink Research Consulting, a B.C. organization providing advice to governments, labour organizations, and the private sector on economic and resource management issues. Thompson came…

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Canadian politics needs…more poetry?

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There’s been a serious degradation in political speech in recent years, says parliamentary poet laureate

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Uncovering the early years of organized soccer in Newfoundland

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MUN professor appeals for help from the public.

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“We feel powerless and terrible”: Inuit artist galvanized by Muskrat Falls

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Heather Campbell’s “Methylmercury” is now part of the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s contemporary Inuit art collection. The Rigolet-born artist is also selling prints to raise money for the Labrador Land Protectors.

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